Attracting providers to relocate for a new job can be a challenge, especially if you are staffing for a hard-to-fill specialty or your facility is located in a rural location.
Steve McMahan, president of CompHealth’s permanent placement division, says, “You see a tremendous variation among hospitals as to how they recruit physicians, and some are much better at it than others.” The key is not to recruit just the doctor. “Connecting with the physician really starts with the underlying recognition that you are recruiting an entire family,” Steve points out. “Not only do you want to get them to accept the job, but you want them to be happy once they get there.”
Keeping the family happy and the provider “in the fold” beyond a two-year contract is essential, considering the astronomical cost of losing them. According to the American Medical Association, costs can range from $500K to $1M when you add in indirect costs like lost patient loyalty to direct recruiting expenses. Here are five ways to help you make the right hire who’s the best long-term fit for everyone: the physician, his or her family, and your facility.
1. Ask about the family during the interview
“When it comes to recruiting the family,” Steve says, “if it’s done well, it really starts at the very beginning of the interview process. We’ve had clients who, even as part of their first phone screening, will really dig down to try and understand the provider’s unique circumstance. Do they have school-age children? Do they have a child with special medical or educational needs? Have they been to this area before? Do they have any family connections to the area? Just understanding the whole situation is critical.”
What you’re looking for, says Steve, is connective tissue. “The more connective tissue you can build between their interests and what’s available where they’re moving, the better. Especially in a lot of smaller communities where people from the East or West Coasts assume that certain things aren’t available there, when, in truth, they are. It’s a matter of education.”
Before the on-site visit, it’s wise to be proactive. Send the family links to websites that offer an attractive picture of your geographical area, points of interest, even cities close by that offer amenities the locals enjoy. Candidates’ random googling may lead to unfair, less-than-complimentary impressions of your town. A little initiative can guide their online research to your advantage.
2. Court the family as well as the physician
The whole family should be invited along for the visit while the physician is busy interviewing.
“Compare two different approaches,” Steve says. “One facility invites the family and has an itinerary lined out for them, another doesn’t. Or the second invites the family but then ignores them once they’re there, and the family members just hang out.” The second is disastrous to successfully recruiting a physician.
As the physician interviews, the family should enjoy a tour of the area, its schools, parks, zoos, and other points of interest, especially the ones uncovered in phone interviews as potentially appealing to the family. It will paint a picture for them of what it would be like to live in your community.
3. Use what you learned to impress
The fact-finding of your initial phone interviews should share what you plan for the family’s visit.
“We had a provider interview not too long ago,” Steve recalls, “and one thing that really made an impression is that his wife had a horse, and when he got to the interview, the prospective employer had already done the research and found where the best equine veterinarian was.”
Another hospital’s staff learned that the wife of a physician about to interview was a bank VP. She’d be looking for a banking job if they made the move. In response, the hospital invited a senior officer of a local bank to the reception dinner for the couple, impressing the provider and wife immensely.
4. Have a high-touch management participation
Having someone from senior management participate in interactions with the candidate and family is vital. Steve says, “The department chairman or even the CEO of the hospital might get involved in entertaining a husband or wife, or whoever it is, helping them envision how they can be happy in that community.” These “high-touch” interactions with senior officials provide the candidate and family a great sense of being valued by the very top of the organization.
5. Remember to follow through
Involvement with the provider and family doesn’t end with the signing of contracts. “Your work is just beginning,” Steve insists. “They’re going to need to be credentialed, licensed in the state they’re moving to, credentialed at the facility.” Steve cautions that the biggest enemy, the biggest mistake that an employer can make is having the whole process take too long — and move too slowly — with too little contact. “The wisest employers stay engaged and look for opportunities to maintain contact,” says Steve. “They can fund house-hunting trips or trips to explore the area again, but continue a dialogue on a regular basis, helping out if they’re looking for schools or doctors or whatever. They stay connected.”
“The success stories,” Steve concludes, “all have a common denominator: the prospective employer took the time to get to know the provider and his or her family, to find out what was important to them, and then helped them connect the dots in their new community to visualize how it will work for them.”